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TITLE:  BOLIVIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995



                            BOLIVIA


A multiparty democracy with an elected president and bicameral 
legislature, Bolivia has separate executive, legislative, and 
judicial branches with an attorney general independent of all 
three.  In August the Congress approved constitutional 
amendments affecting election of future presidents and 
congresses, lowering the voting age, reforming the judicial 
system, and creating a human rights ombudsman office and a 
court of constitutionality.

The Army, Air Force, Navy, and National Police (including the 
UMOPAR rural mobile patrols) comprise the security forces.  
They are generally responsible to the civilian authorities, but 
some elements of the security forces committed incidents of 
human rights abuse.

Rich in minerals and hydrocarbons, Bolivia has a per capita 
gross domestic product of about $1,000; 55 percent of its 
inhabitants live below the poverty line.  Many Bolivians lack 
services such as water, power, sewage, and elementary health 
care, while traditional agricultural practices and weak 
infrastructure make poverty endemic in rural areas.  The 
Government stressed debt reduction, exports, foreign 
investment, privatization, and a freer banking system to 
promote development.  Real economic growth was estimated at 
about 4 percent in 1994, the same as 1993.

The most pervasive human rights abuse continued to be prolonged 
incarceration of detainees caused by inefficiency and 
corruption in the judicial system.  The Government's efforts to 
combat well-entrenched and violent drug traffickers produced 
some abuses, including an extrajudicial killing, thefts, and 
drug-related corruption.  Other abuses included mistreatment of 
detainees and prisoners (exacerbated by failure to punish 
perpetrators), substandard prison conditions, violence and 
discrimination against women and indigenous people, and inhuman 
working conditions in the mining industry.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of politically motivated killings.  There 
were two documented cases in which government forces committed 
extrajudicial killings.  In one, a patrol of soldiers under a 
junior officer beat to death a Spanish citizen following an 
argument.  At the urging of the Foreign Ministry, the armed 
forces investigated; the officer and five soldiers were at 
year's end on trial for murder in a civilian court.  In another 
case, on August 18, an UMOPAR patrol killed a cocaine 
laboratory worker, Felipe Perez Ortiz, during a 
counternarcotics operation in the coca-growing Chapare region.  
Initial police reports indicated Perez died in a gun battle, 
but further investigation showed he died in custody from a 
gunshot to the head.  The members of the patrol were detained; 
the policeman suspected of the actual shooting, however, 
"escaped" September 3 under circumstances not yet clarified.  
The guards on duty at the time of the escape were arrested but 
have not yet been tried.

Following a 7-year trial in absentia for murder, human rights 
abuses, and other crimes, in April 1993 the court sentenced 
former dictator General Luis Garcia Meza to the maximum 30-year 
prison term.  Brazilian authorities arrested Garcia Meza and 
approved a Bolivian extradition request in 1994, but his 
lawyers appealed, and Brazil had not returned him to Bolivian 
custody by the end of the year.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The constitutional prohibition on torture is generally 
honored.  There were, nevertheless, credible charges of cruel 
and degrading treatment of detainees and prisoners by police 
and prison personnel, particularly in connection with a major 
coca eradication effort in the Chapare region.  The Government 
sent an investigatory team there, but no security personnel 
were tried for such acts; lack of evidence and fear prevented 
cases from going to trial.  Some rural leaders exaggerated 
reports of UMOPAR abuses, making it hard to distinguish between 
legitimate complaints and political agitation.  In the past, 
however, there were credible reports of UMOPAR mistreatment of 
detainees (e.g., pushing, kicking).  Allegations of more 
serious abuses, such as rape, could not be confirmed.  UMOPAR 
has augmented the human rights component of its training.

Allegations also resurfaced that ex-officers in police 
intelligence had in past years tortured captured terrorists.  
The congressional human rights committee investigated the 
charges but announced no conclusions.  The accusations seem 
politically motivated and not credible.

Prison conditions vary from luxurious to wretched.  Ability to 
pay can determine cell size, visiting privileges, day-pass 
eligibility, sentence, and place of confinement.  Cell prices 
range from $20 to $5,000, paid to prior occupants or to 
prisoners who control cell blocks.  In the poorest parts of La 
Paz' San Pedro prison, for example, inmates occupy tiny cells 
(3 by 4 by 6 feet) with no ventilation, lighting, or beds.  
Crowding in some "low-rent" sections obliges inmates to sleep 
sitting up.  Children up to 6 years old may live with an 
incarcerated parent; authorities have worked to get children 
out of prisons, but many have nowhere else to go.  A member of 
the Bolivian Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (APDHB) 
asserted that approximately 400 children live with their 
parents in prison.  Well-financed drug traffickers and 
terrorists often enjoy relatively lavish accommodations and 
visiting rights.  Chonchocoro prison, outside La Paz, is built 
to hold the most dangerous criminals.  These, however, often 
have means to get transfers, for "medical" reasons, to less 
secure facilities.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Denial of justice through prolonged detention remains the most 
pervasive human rights problem.  Judicial corruption, a 
shortage of public defenders, inadequate case-tracking 
mechanisms, and complex criminal justice procedures keep 
persons incarcerated for months, or even years, before trial.  
Some estimates claim that up to 85 percent of inmates have yet 
to go to trial.  The Constitution provides for judicial 
determination of the legality of detention.  Prisoners are 
released if a judge rules detention illegal, but the process 
can take months.  Prisoners may see a lawyer, but public 
defenders are overburdened.  Bail exists, except in some drug 
cases, and is generally granted.  Many persons, however, cannot 
afford it.  Persons tried under Law 1008 (the counternarcotics 
law) must await Supreme Court confirmation or rejection of 
lower courts' verdicts--a process involving severe delays.

Acquittal does not guarantee release from prison.  Thousands 
remain in jail for months or even years after receiving "not 
guilty" verdicts because they cannot pay for release papers, 
other forms, and lawyers' fees.  The Government has begun to 
address the problem of delay of justice, including 
constitutional reforms to streamline the judicial system.  The 
Minister of Justice vowed to free those who have spent long 
periods imprisoned without trial or were found not guilty but 
stay incarcerated for inability to pay fees and fines.  At his 
urging, the legislature approved a government proposal to end 
imprisonment for debt.  (The law had provided that debtors may 
be imprisoned until they pay civil damages, as well as court 
costs and fees.)  The Government freed some 300 persons by 
year's end, some of whom served as many as 10 years in prison 
for debts as small as $50.

Exile is not used as a punishment.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, 
and the authorities generally respect it.  Investigation, 
trial, and appeal procedures, however, take so long that 
prisoners can serve more time than the sentence for the crime 
with which they are charged.  Defendants have the right to an 
attorney, to confront witnesses, to present evidence, and to 
appeal judicial decisions.  The authorities generally honor 
these rights.  Although the law provides for a defense attorney 
at public expense if needed, one is not always available.  The 
highly formal and corrupt judicial system makes it difficult 
for poor, illiterate persons to have access to courts and legal 
redress.

Corruption and intimidation in the judicial system remain major 
problems.  Poor pay and working conditions help make judges and 
prosecutors susceptible to bribes to free suspected drug 
traffickers and their property.  In July the acting Attorney 
General, under circumstances that suggested strongly he had 
been bribed or threatened, recommended against the extradition 
of several traffickers.  After a long impeachment trial in 
Congress, two Supreme Court justices, including the Court's 
president, were found guilty of malfeasance and removed from 
the Court.

APBDH, the major local human rights group, asserted that there 
were about 20 "political prisoners," but the Government claimed 
they were terrorists involved in violent crimes, including 
murders and bombings.  Available evidence supported the 
Government's claim.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The Constitution provides for the sanctity of the home and the 
privacy of citizens' lives, and the Government usually 
respected these provisions.  There were credible allegations of 
UMOPAR abuses, including thefts of property from homes and 
illegal searches.  Opponents charged that security services 
conducted illegal phone taps and other surveillance; these 
charges could not be confirmed.  The Government respects the 
rights of individuals to determine family size, religion, and 
political affiliations.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

No legal or institutional barriers to freedom of speech and 
press exist.  State-owned and private radio and television 
stations operate freely.  Newspapers are privately owned; most 
adopt antigovernment positions.  There were credible charges of 
politicians and drug traffickers paying newsmen for favorable 
coverage, even though professional organizations rejected such 
accusations.

The Government respects academic freedom, and the law grants 
public universities autonomous status.  Some university-based 
Marxist groups seek to deny academic freedom and impose their 
political agenda on the education process.  They have 
threatened to paralyze the educational system to protest the 
Government's reform plan, which moves resources from the 
universities to primary education.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the rights of peaceful assembly and 
association, and the authorities respect them in practice.  
Labor, political, and student groups carried out numerous 
demonstrations and rallies in La Paz and other cities.  As a 
rule, authorities try to avoid confronting demonstrators.  The 
Government routinely granted permits for marches and rallies.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Roman Catholicism predominates; the Constitution recognizes it 
as the official religion.  Citizens may practice the religion 
of their choice.  About 400 religious groups, mostly 
Protestant, are active.  Missionary groups must register with 
the Foreign Ministry as nongovernmental organizations (NGO's); 
no indication exists that they received treatment different 
from that given other NGO's.  Despite Catholic Church 
criticism, the Ministry disallowed no registrations.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

No restrictions exist on travel.  The Government permits 
emigration, guarantees the right to return, and does not revoke 
citizenship for political reasons.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Bolivia is a multiparty democracy with an elected president and 
an independent, bicameral legislature.  Political parties 
ranging from far left to moderate right function openly. 
National elections are held every 4 years; the June 1993 
elections were free and fair, resulting in a peaceful, 
constitutional change of government.  Suffrage is universal and 
obligatory.

No legal impediments exist to women or indigenous people 
voting, holding political office, or rising to political 
leadership.  Nevertheless, the number of women and indigenous 
people who have prominent positions in politics remains small, 
but with notable exceptions such as Vice President Victor Hugo 
Cardenas, an Aymara Indian, and La Paz mayor Monica Medina.  
The "popular participation" law passed in April will give local 
communities more influence in decisionmaking.  Its impact has 
been greatest in rural areas, where neighbors formed 1,500 
basic territorial organizations and small communities created 
47 centralized municipal associations, which have legal status 
to receive and spend public funds, largely on local development 
projects.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Government is sensitive to the views of domestic and 
international human rights organizations and discusses their 
concerns with them.  Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch/ 
Americas, and the Washington Office on Latin America follow the 
local human rights scene; monitors have visited without 
hindrance.  The House of Deputies' Human Rights Commission gets 
considerable political and media attention.  The Catholic 
Church, the APDHB, foreign NGO's, labor and student 
organizations, and the media monitor human rights issues.  As 
part of a large counternarcotics operation, the Government 
expelled two foreign human rights monitors for immigration law 
violations, involvement with pro-coca activities and groups, 
and possible links to terrorists.  The Government's accusations 
were credible; there was no evidence that they were expelled 
because of human rights activities.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based upon race, sex, 
language, religion, political or other opinion, origin, or 
economic or social condition.  Nonetheless, there is 
significant discrimination against women and indigenous people.

     Women

Women generally do not enjoy a social status equal to that of 
men.  Many poor women do not know their legal rights; 
traditional prejudices and social conditions remain obstacles 
to advancement.  Women generally earn less than men for equal 
work.  Young girls often leave school to work at home or on the 
economy.  A study by the National Statistical Institute (INE) 
found that, as of the 1992 census, 27.7 percent of women were 
illiterate, compared to 11.8 percent of men.  Although no legal 
impediments exist, women hold few professional positions.

Violence against women is pervasive.  An INE study covering the 
July 1992-June 1993 period found that 40 percent of all 
reported violent attacks in La Paz department were perpetrated 
against women.  Ninety-five percent of the attackers were male; 
in 71 percent of the cases the attacker was closely related to 
the victim.  Of these domestic violence complaints, 52 percent 
involved physical mistreatment and 48 percent were related to 
psychological abuse.  A total of 11,069 complaints of violence 
against women were registered in La Paz during this period.  
The Subsecretary for Women's Affairs in the Ministry of Human 
Development estimates that 95 percent of all cases of violence 
against women go unpunished.  Women's rights advocates point 
out that the Penal Code provides that no punishment is 
applicable when "injuries are light" and were inflicted by a 
close family member (including in-laws) living with the victim.

The Government has developed a four-part plan for the 
protection of women.  It implemented the first part on October 
24 by promulgating Law 1559 which adopted the Inter-American 
Convention for the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of 
Violence Against Women as Bolivian law.  Subsequent steps 
include a law against domestic violence, establishment of 
comprehensive legal services offices to help and support women, 
revisions to school curriculums, and educating health care 
providers about the appropriate manner of dealing with female 
patients.

     Children

According to the Subsecretary for Generational Affairs of the 
Ministry of Human Development, approximately 40 percent of the 
urban population under 18 years of age (about one million 
persons) is mistreated; he estimated that the proportion is 
higher in rural areas.  Statistics from the Ministry of 
Planning's education reform team note that in rural areas, only 
0.7 percent of girls and 1.4 percent of boys finish high 
school; in urban areas, 26 percent of girls and 31 percent of 
boys do so.  The 1994 Educational Reform Act seeks to better 
the situation of children; even optimistic observers, however, 
note the reforms will need years to make an impact.

The old practice of "criadito" service still persists in some 
parts of Bolivia.  Criaditos are indigenous children of both 
sexes, usually 10 to 12 years old, whom their parents indenture 
to middle- and upper-class families to perform household work 
in exchange for education, clothing, room, and board.  There 
are no controls over the benefits to or treatment of the 
criaditos, who may become virtual slaves for the years of their 
indenture.

     Indigenous People

Indians, who comprise a majority of the population, lack the 
opportunity to participate in decisions affecting their lands, 
culture, traditions, and the allocation of natural resources.  
The Government has placed rights for indigenous people on its 
reform agenda, which includes educational reform and popular 
participation.  The 1994 constitutional reforms acknowledge 
Bolivia as a "multiethnic, pluricultural society" and allow the 
indigenous nations to assume ownership of traditional lands.  
By year's end, however, few if any results were apparent.

Discrimination against and abuses of indigenous people 
continued.  The Indian majority generally remains at the low 
end of the socioeconomic scale, facing severe disadvantages in 
health, life expectancy, education, income, literacy, and 
employment.  Lack of education, poor farming and mining 
methods, indigenous cultural practices, inability to speak 
Spanish, and societal biases keep the indigenous people poor.  
Construction workers, mostly indigenous, are often fired before 
3 months' service, relieving the employer of the obligation to 
provide severance pay and other benefits.  The same employer 
then rehires the workers for another short period.

     People with Disabilities

No specific legislation protects the disabled but some limited 
steps have been taken:  for example, the new electoral law 
makes arrangements for blind voters.  In general, however, 
there are no special services nor infrastructure to accommodate 
the handicapped.  Social attitudes keep many disabled persons 
at home from an early age, limiting their integration into 
society.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers may form and join organizations of their choosing.  The 
Labor Code requires prior governmental authorization to 
establish a union, permits only one per enterprise, and allows 
the Government to dissolve unions, but the Government has not 
enforced these provisions in recent years.  While the Code 
denies civil servants the right to organize and bans strikes in 
public services, including banks and public markets, nearly all 
civilian government workers are unionized.  In theory, the 
Bolivian Labor Federation (COB) represents virtually the entire 
work force; approximately one-half of the workers in the formal 
economy belong to labor unions.  Some members of the informal 
economy also participate in labor organizations.  Workers in 
the private sector frequently exercise the right to strike.  
Solidarity strikes are illegal, but the Government does not 
prosecute those responsible nor impose penalties.

Significant strikes centered around annual negotiations over 
salaries and benefits for public employees.  When the 
Government refused to accede to union demands, strikers 
marched, set up roadblocks, and cut access to certain areas of 
the Chapare region.  Additional talks produced a settlement 
favorable to the workers, and the strikes ended.  Unions are 
not independent of government and political parties.  Most 
parties have labor committees that try to influence union 
activity, causing fierce political battles within unions.  The 
law allows unions to join international labor organizations.  
The COB became an affiliate of the formerly Soviet-dominated 
World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) in 1988.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers may organize and bargain collectively.  In practice, 
collective bargaining, defined as voluntary direct negotiations 
between unions and employers without participation of the 
Government, is limited.  Consultations between government 
representatives and labor leaders are common, but there are no 
collective bargaining agreements as defined above.  In state 
industries, the union issues a list of demands and the 
Government concedes some points.  Private employers often use 
public sector settlements as guidelines for their own 
adjustments, and some private employers exceed what the 
Government grants.  The Government, conscious of International 
Monetary Fund guidelines, rarely grants wage increases 
exceeding inflation.

The law prohibits discrimination against union members and 
organizers.  Complaints go to the National Labor Court, which 
can take a year or more to rule.  Union leaders say problems 
are often moot by the time the court rules.

Labor law and practice in the seven special duty-free zones are 
the same as in the rest of Bolivia.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law bars forced or compulsory labor.  There were no cases 
reported other than the criadito service described in Section 5.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law prohibits employment of persons under 18 years of age 
in dangerous, unhealthy, or immoral work.  The Labor Code is 
ambiguous on conditions of employment for minors aged 14 to 17; 
it permits apprenticeship for those 12 to 14.  This practice 
has been criticized by the International Labor Organization; 
the Government responded that it would present legislation 
reforming this and other provisions of the Labor Code.  
Responsibility for enforcing child labor provisions resides in 
the Labor Ministry, but it generally does not enforce 
provisions on employment of children.  Urban children hawk 
goods, shine shoes, and assist transport operators.  Rural 
children often work with parents from an early age.  Children 
are not generally employed in factories or formal businesses 
but, when employed, often work the same hours as adults.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law establishes a minimum wage (about $38 per month), 
bonuses, and fringe benefits.  The minimum wage does not 
provide a worker a decent standard of living, and most workers 
earn more.  Although the minimum wage falls below prevailing 
wages in most jobs, certain fringe benefits are pegged to it.  
The minimum wage does not cover about 20 percent of urban 
workers--vendors and shoe polishers, for example--nor does it 
cover farmers, some 30 percent of the working population.

Only half the urban labor force enjoys an 8-hour workday and a 
workweek of 5 or 5 1/2 days, because the maximum workweek of 44 
hours is not enforced.  The Labor Ministry's Bureau of 
Occupational Safety has responsibility for protection of 
workers' health and safety, but such laws are poorly enforced.  
Although the State Mining Corporation has an office charged 
with safety, the mines, often old and using antiquated 
equipment, are dangerous and unhealthy.

In a tradition dating from the Spanish conquest, employers in 
the mining sector promote chewing of coca leaf with a catalyst 
that serves to release the leaf's alkaloids, including 
cocaine.  Coca is promoted as a substitute for food, water, and 
appropriate rest periods.  In many cooperative mines, miners 
earn less than $3 per 12-hour day.  They work without helmets, 
boots, or respirators in mines where toxic gases abound; they 
buy their own supplies, including dynamite, have no scheduled 
rest periods, and survive with little water and food.  
Employers and others assure them coca leaf satisfies not only 
nutritional needs but also suppresses hunger and thirst, makes 
them strong, and protects them from toxic gases and silicosis.  
Miners stay underground from 24 to 72 hours without 
interruption.  With no drinking water available in many mines, 
miners drink urine.  The promotion of coca chewing by some 
employers, politicians, the COB, and persons having a financial 
stake in the manufacture and sale of cocaine, contributes to 
conditions of work that fall far below international labor and 
human rights standards.


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[end of document]

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